René Simoes is a well-travelled man. The 51-year-old has previously coached the Trinidad und Tobago national team and led Jamaica to the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ in France. Today, he is the coach of the Brazilian women's team whom he has guided to the quarter-finals of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. FIFA.com caught up with the Brazilian after his side's 7-0 victory over Greece.
Mr Simoes, what did you say to your Greek counterpart after the game?
I said I had a similar experience when I coached Trinidad und Tobago. We played Brazil in the last game of the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship and lost 6-1. So I've been there. I said "Don't be angry with yourself, you were playing Brazil. It is difficult, but forge your own path and don't dwell on the past." There is no progress without defeat. We learned that with Jamaica over four years. During the first three years, we lost many many games. Everybody used to ask me "Are you crazy?". But if you don't know how to lose, you will never learn to win.
How were your preparations?
Firstly, I have to point out that I took over the team in March this year. Our preparations have been fantastic, apart from one aspect: international matches. We only had one game against the USA. Scheduled games against China and Russia were cancelled for various reasons.
How would you judge your performances in the group games?
The team played excellently against the USA. We had five good chances in the first half and then the second half was the complete opposite. Against Greece it was a different game. They had to win, so they came at us. That gave us space, which we obviously enjoyed. We made them cover a lot of ground and tired them out.
Your team appears to be very fit.
My players are in fantastic condition. All of them are the right weight. Previously, they only had two meals per day. Now they have four meals and they are still losing weight. They are learning how and what to eat with our help. We use technology and have a GPS device for every player which attaches to their arm to record how much they run. The results are very promising.
So you don't use the GPS to find the players at night?
(laughs) No, we sat down at the beginning and laid down the rules. I told the girls to draw up their own rules and I wrote down mine. Then we pooled them all together. Everything we do, we do together. You won't see our players running around here on their own of a night. Everything has worked perfectly so far.
How do you like things in general here in Greece?
We expected temperatures around 38 degrees, but it isn't that hot. The humidity is also lower than we are used to in Rio de Janeiro, which is perfect.
Your next opponents are Mexico. How do you rate them?
Mexico have played two games against Australia and I saw both of them. Technically, they are a very good team. They have two great players in Maribel Dominguez and Fatima Leyva. They are truly fantastic players. It will be a very interesting game.
What are your thoughts on the tournament overall?
Greece's exit did not really surprise me. We knew from their previous results that they would not survive in this group. What really shocked me was China going out. They are probably concentrating too much on 2008. Perhaps they should have re-built the team more gradually.
How are you getting on in the same hotel with so many teams?
It’s good. We cheer each other and say hello. With the exception of the United States team though, since they don’t talk to anyone. The Americans don’t even look at you. I don’t know why... it is not quite the philosophy of the Olympic games or FIFA, which should be about Fair Play. If you pass them on the corridor, they don't even say ‘good morning’. I don't call it the Olympic spirit. Also in the game, I was very, very upset with the behaviour of some US players. They played a very dirty game.
You are flying in an additional player from Brazil?
Diana is coming. She plays for the Under-19s. She is an exciting prospect for the future.
Your team was very strong against Greece, especially Cristiane with her three goals.
Formiga was outstanding as well. The team is playing very well. We have a really strong unit. I have had to accommodate all of the players sensibly within the team. Initially, I had no idea how we could play the way we are playing now with so many attacking players. It is impossible to play with so many offensive players, but the girls have worked very hard and it is working. That's my job, to find a place within a system for all of the best players. Sometimes it is not entirely possible. It was not easy at the start to play with Marta and Cristiane, for example, who are both left-footed. There were misunderstandings in the early days because they both occupied the same space at the same time. Now they know each other's runs.
You speak very good English. Where does that come from?
I've learned it throughout life. I spent some time in the United Arab Emirates in 1982. It was the first time I had lived outside my own country. You have to take the plunge and communicate. I can still remember my first meeting with the Jamaican Football Association in 1994, just after they had founded a Jamaican Football Foundation managed by bankers and a number of prominent personalities. All of them were university educated. When I arrived in Jamaica, I explained my plans. The first question was: Coach, how can you train English-speaking players with the kind of English you speak? I responded: I teach football with the foot, not with the tongue. The person who asked the question became a very good friend and we still laugh about it today whenever we meet.
Who are the favourites for the tournament?
Obviously USA and Germany. We want to emulate Greece at the European Championship or Once Caldas in the Copa Libertadores, who nobody expected to win the tournament. That is our focus now and I think we have a good chance.